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Original Uden probe used psychics, past sheriff recalls

Oct 10, 2013 - By Eric Blom, Staff Writer

On Sept. 27, the Fremont County Attorney's Office finally charged Gerald Uden with three counts of first-degree murder for killing Virginia, Reagan and Richard Uden -- 33 years after the three disappeared.

Three decades ago, a psychic had a vision: The missing woman and her two boys were in a hole in the ground and looking out. Through the camouflaged entrance, they could see a landmark -- Crowheart Butte.

The vision gave Fremont County Sheriff Tim McKinney a new direction to search.

His office had been searching for the woman, Virginia Uden, and her sons, Reagan, 10, and Richard, 11, for weeks after they disappeared Sept. 12, 1980. Authorities had scoured the Dickinson Park area where sheriff's deputies found the bloody station wagon Uden was driving the day she vanished.

The missing woman's mother, Claire Martin, had hired the psychic with the vision of Crowheart Butte, and two other psychics before that.

"I'm not one who really believes in clairvoyance, but at that point I was ready for anything to try," McKinney said.

With help from the Wind River Indian Reservation Fish and Game Department, the sheriff's office searched every old mine shaft, well and cave they could find in the Crowheart Butte area. Officials also investigated land around Diversion Dam because Uden and her children were planning to go dove hunting in that area with her ex-husband.

Their efforts were fruitless, however.

Some incidents with Virginia Uden's ex-husband, Gerald Uden and his new wife, Alice, led McKinney to suspect they were involved in the disappearances.

He was right, but it took 33 years to make it legal.

On Sept. 27, the Fremont County Attorney's Office finally charged Gerald Uden with three counts of first-degree murder for killing Virginia, Reagan and Richard Uden. Gerald Uden is reported to have confessed.

Courthouse meeting

One night a few weeks after Sept. 12, 1980, Gerald Uden came to the sheriff's office in the Fremont County Courthouse in Lander, asking to speak to McKinney. The communications officer on duty at the time called McKinney out of his living quarters, which were in the government building.

Sitting in McKinney's office, Uden asked for the sheriff to protect him from people who were following him. McKinney grilled him about the case.

"I said, 'You know if we find a body in 30 years, I'm going to be on your doorstep,'" McKinney recalled. "I thought he was going to tell me right then because of the expression on his face and the tone in his voice."

Uden, looked down for a while, then suddenly brought his face up and stood to leave.

"My attorney said I don't have to talk to you," McKinney remembered Uden saying.

As the suspect reached for the door handle, he turned.

"Besides that, you haven't got anything until you find a body, and you're not going to find one," Uden told McKinney.

Wife's crime

No matter where they searched, authorities did not turn up any remains, however, and McKinney put pressure on the suspects, hoping their behavior would provide a clue.

The sheriff had his deputies follow Gerald Uden and his new wife, Alice, hoping they would revisit the scene of the crime, return to the location of the victims' bodies, or provide some other clue.

McKinney and sheriff's Capt. Larry Mathews, the lead investigator in the case, also started asking questions about Alice Uden.

McKinney interviewed one of the woman's adult sons who was living in Lander at the time, and he told the sheriff something astounding.

"He felt that his mother had murdered a guy in Cheyenne before she met Gerald," McKinney said.

The son explained that his mother had worked as a nurse in a Veterans Administration hospital in Cheyenne, and she met her victim when he was a patient at the hospital. Alice Uden shot the man, put him in a barrel, and dumped him in a mine shaft outside Cheyenne, the son told the sheriff.

Decades later, she now is accused of doing exactly that.

Alice Uden was arrested Sept. 26 for murdering her ex-husband, Ronald Holtz, in 1974 or 1975. In August, law enforcement found the victim's body 40 feet down in an old gold mine on the ranch the son named to McKinney.

The former sheriff said he called Laramie County Sheriff's Office at the time and told them what he had learned. McKinney heard that the claim was investigated, but he was frustrated that more was not done.

"They looked around...(but) they couldn't find anyone who wanted to go down in that hole or some darn thing," McKinney said. "I couldn't do anything more. It wasn't in my jurisdiction."

Capable of murder

As McKinney came to know Gerald Uden through the investigation, the sheriff began to think the suspect was capable of murder. One story in particular showed McKinney the man was angry and capable of violence.

Uden at the time worked at the U.S. Steel iron ore mine near Atlantic City.

One of his co-workers told McKinney that Uden and another man were working on the side of a highway after dark when a water truck came by to spray the road, McKinney said. As it passed, the woman driving the truck drenched the two men.

"I guess Gerald went completely berserk," McKinney said. "This guy's demeanor wasn't really good, he threatened to get this gal, and his partner told his boss."

Uden left where he was working, and his partner hurried to find their boss. The partner recounted the threats Uden made, and the boss radioed the water truck driver.

"He told her not to stop at any of the water filling stations without any lights on," McKinney said.

The woman heeded the warning and passed the first loading station she came to because the lamp was out.

Uden's co-workers were looking for him when he came into the U.S. Steel office.

"He was running and huffing," McKinney said.

Uden admitted to his foreman that he went to the water station the driver had passed and unscrewed the light bulb.

"He was waiting for her and was going to get even," McKinney said.

Eventually, the investigation by law enforcement and all the questions got to be too much for Gerald and Alice Uden, McKinney thinks.

"We put so much pressure on them, that's why they moved to Missouri," McKinney said.

After they moved, the trail ran cold, and no new evidence arose before McKinney left the elected office in 1990.

RELATED CONTENT

Oct. 16: Uden waives preliminary hearing; he'll be bound over for murder

Oct. 13: Past sheriff King spent years on Uden case

Oct. 8: Uden arrives in county; bond denied by judge

Oct. 6: With Uden case cracked, past sheriffs recall years of worry

Oct. 2: Suspects lived 'untouchable' in Missouri

Oct. 1: Uden case solved after 33 years; man arrested in Missouri

Opinion: Cold cases -- Three of them have 'warmed up' virtually at the same time

Letters: Break in the Uden case is 'nothing short of incredible'

Obituary: Claire 'Peg' C. Martin

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